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Panda Update – Wednesday, February 1

Today’s panda update is a topic we do have to talk about occasionally: Panda Poo! For the first three months after giving birth, Lun Lun was fastidious about where she defecated and urinated and always did so away from the nest box and the cubs. This behavior is instinctual; in the wild, the smell of urine and feces may attract predators and feces and urine would build up quickly in the nest, so females try to eliminate waste as far from the nest as possible. At around 2-3 months, giant panda mothers start moving their cubs to different nests, and at 4-5 months, cubs may start following her when she leaves for foraging trips. When Lun Lun’s cubs were 3-4 months old, she became less careful about where she urinated and defecated, which is normal for giant pandas. Giant pandas are not latrine-using animals – they urinate and defecate wherever they happen to be and whatever they happen to be doing at the moment. They routinely defecate and sometimes urinate while they are eating and sleeping and will continue to eat and sleep in and around their feces and urine. While this behavior may seem gross to humans, it’s a normal, natural behavior for giant pandas. Lun Lun has resumed normal panda behavior now that the cubs are older and mobile. Some of you may have noticed the cubs playing, rolling, and walking in and around Lun Lun’s feces and urine.  This behavior is completely normal for giant panda cubs. We have seen all of Lun Lun’s cubs play with, chew on, and lie in their mother’s urine and feces. In fact, there may be some benefit to the cubs’ behavior. Young animals’ immune systems are still developing and exposure to the bacteria or other flora in mother’s feces may provide some opportunities to beef up the cubs’ immune systems. So, if you ever see a giant panda adult or cub sleeping, eating, or playing in and around feces or urine, remember that, though it may seem unpleasant to you, it doesn’t bother the panda and is a normal thing for he/she to be doing.
Heather R.
Senior Keeper, Mammals

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